Visiting Purim

In late December of 2010, on a frigid, glittery, ice-inflected Kentucky morning, I pulled into Richland Hills Farm. Ed DeRosa and I were on a winter farm tour mission, and our host, Leanna Packard, graciously welcomed us, though I can imagine that there were many things she’d have rather done that morning than walk us between frozen paddocks.

Our first stop was to see Sightseeing, the son of Pulpit standing his second season at stud. He won the Peter Pan in 2007 and finished third in the Dwyer and the Jim Dandy, fourth in the Travers. He was a 3-year-old with Street Sense and Hard Spun and Any Given Saturday; he finished just half a length behind NoBiz like Shobiz, 3 ½ lengths ahead of Any Given Saturday, in the Wood Memorial that year.

Known as much for his temperament as for his racing, Sightseeing was something of a head case. In the early days of this site, I wrote,

And what’s up with Sightseeing? Two major duds in a row, after a series of races that made you think he could be a major competitor at the end of his three-year-old season. He was “excused” from the post parade and rumor has it that he’s sort of a head case. Blinkers on for the Travers: he finished fourth of seven by eleven lengths. Blinkers off for the Brooklyn: he finished last in a field of five. Shug must be scratching his head about this colt.

Leanna acknowledged that life as a stallion had not entirely eliminated Sightseeing’s quirkiness, but on that December morning, it seemed to have had softened. Sightseeing came right to the fence, eager to visit with the humans, gratefully accepting treats and nose rubs. He reminded me that day a little bit of a puppy, eager and goofy and friendly. He seemed disappointed when we walked away.

But we had another stop to make, so we made our way over to see Purim, whose welcome—if you could call it that—couldn’t have been more different from his neighbor’s.

Was it the crunchiness underfoot? The glare of the winter sunlight off the snow? Mid-winter blues? Maybe he hadn’t finished his Christmas shopping. (I certainly hadn’t.)

It’s not, exactly, that he wasn’t interested. He wasn’t sullen, or arrogant. He just seemed…confused? Conflicted? “I want to come over there and see you but I’m not sure it’s a great idea”?

He didn’t ignore us; he was vigilant, watchful, and he’d take a few steps forward. We frantically crinkled peppermint wrappers (the local Kroeger had been out of starlight mints – I’d had to settle for mini-candy canes), looking mighty foolish as we crinkled and crackled and smooched, all in vain.

We took a page from Hansel and Gretel and tried throwing out bits of candy cane, making him step closer and closer to us…and the closer he got, the stiller we had to be, because any motion would send him flying.

(You know what it was exactly like? Trying to socialize a feral cat. No wonder it sounded familiar as I typed.)

And finally, finally, FINALLY…success.

Ed was the lucky beneficiary. That’s his gloved hand.

I knew Purim’s name, but I never saw him race; he didn’t come to New York, and in those days, I wasn’t going to tracks in other cities.  His racing record was 23-9-3-1, for earnings of $928,543. His biggest win was the Shadwell Turf Mile in October 2007; he beat Cosmonaut by a neck.

He was a graded stakes winner on turf and dirt, and he entered stud in 2008. His most accomplished foal to date is Gold Megillah, owned by West Point Thoroughbreds and trained by Graham Motion.

That cold winter morning, he was a funny guy, and I’ve thought about him a lot since then. I was sad to hear the news of his recent death, but glad we got to spend the morning with him. Condolences to his connections and the folks at Richland, so kind and gracious to us that day.

Past performance information courtesy of Daily Racing Form.

11 thoughts on “Visiting Purim

  1. A visit to Lexington is a total must for any person interested in horse racing. My one and only time was for the 2000 Bluegrass. Rooting for Johnny V and More Than Ready that day we came up a head short, but the experience of visiting Keeneland, Lexington, Midway that weekend is still fondly remembered. After the race we walked around the barn area at Keeneland and came upon More Than Ready getting cooled down and washed off. The symmetrical stables can make anyone into a pro photographer. That weekend we went to the KY Horse Park where we saw the great John Henry who came up to us as if a veteran athlete knowing he was going to be asked for a picture and autograph, they always said he was a smart horse, him and Zenyatta would have been a good pair. There we also saw Cigar with his three white socks newly retired. Driving around the area is remarkable, the scenery of the wooden fenced-in farms in the spring was beautiful. Came upon one farm just driving around the public roads where about 7-8 Mares and their new foals were out in the morning. Just aimlessly driving around we saw the huge imposing locked gates of Adena Springs and the historic red gate with black ravens(?) of Calumet. Finally posing as “potential owners breeders from NY” (we were 30 then how the lady at the desk let us in I still don’t know, very kind, too kind) we walked up to Three Chimenys and they let us in without a guide, said people in the barns will show us around just don’t go into the quarantine barn. Saw the monument to Seattle Slew (after 5 pictures of it I think the lady at the desk figured out we were more tourists than breeders) and also saw Skip Away in his stall, he was very eager to see us as most primed studs are I guess. Thanks for sharing your Lexington visit, as you can tell it brought back great memories of a trip to horse country. Like I said a must for any fan of the game. Need to get back there soon.

    • I remember how I felt the first time I drove through the Bluegrass, and it doesn’t get stale on repetition. I hope you get back there before too long.

  2. We always cheer when we cross the state line into Kentucky.

    Thanks for your up close and personal memories of Purim, another one gone too soon, colic is right up there with laminitis in terrible diseases that take horses too soon.

    • You know, when I was planning this post, I meant to write about his name…but I forgot. You’re right: he was probably doing Hannukah shopping. Or not.

  3. I looked a couple of times yesterday, and the results weren’t posted yet. Ugh. Well, could be one bad one…he’s had them before. Let’s hope so.

  4. He’s been run back fairly quickly (for him anyway) the last two races. I am hoping it’s just adjusting to the new barn, a different track and maybe that he prefers turf. Fingers crossed 🙂

  5. Thanks for the article and photos about Purim. He will be missed for sure and my sympathies to the connections.
    A trip to the Bluegrass including 3 Chimmneys, the Keeneland and the Kentucky Horse Park cannot be beat. By the way The New York Yankees of Thoroughbred racing, The Iconic Calumet Farm is right next to the park. The statues are eagles. They are meant to bring good luck. A fine book, Wild Ride tells about that along with the fascinating history of Calumet. The author is Ann Hagedorn Auerbach. Have a great day and may all your furlongs be winning ones!

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